E3 2012: Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes [Preview]
The block-based Batman returns this month (19 June to be precise), and he’s bringing even more heroic friends and dastardly villains with him than ever before. As well as an extended cast list, Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is looking like it will diverge from previous Lego titles in a couple of fairly substantial ways.
For a start, the whole of Lego Gotham City will be your open-world playground. That means your journeys around the streets will be as unrestricted as the newly unbound third-person camera. We saw Lego Superman take to the skies for an aerial view of the world and, though scaled somewhat differently, it appears to be a touch larger than the outdoor playable area in Batman: Arkham City. As a neat touch, when Superman glides around in the air he’s accompanied by the iconic John Williams Superman theme.
The other major change, and one you may be aware of if you’ve watched any of the promotional Lego Batman 2 videos released to date, is the verbosity of the Minifig characters. Traveller’s Tales has justified this change on the basis that when the characters were semi-mute, some people had trouble following the story. No matter how the voice acting ends up being received (and so far the dialogue seems in-keeping with the Lego humour of previous games), that’s quite an indictment on the people who were unable to follow such straightforward plots.
Hopefully they’ll all be able to keep up with the story in this installment, which (wait for it) sees Lex Luthor and The Joker teaming up to spread chaos throughout Gotham. Complex stuff. In busting Joker out of Arkham Asylum, Lex has also released a host of other villains, so now Batman and Robin (plus a selection of heroic chums) have to round them all up and bring them to block-based justice.
As if that weren’t bad enough, Lex and Joker have constructed a huge Joker-bot with a ‘deconstruction cannon’ that can tear apart black Lego creations. That’s rather unhelpful for Batman, considering his favourite colour isn’t exactly pink. We got to see a linear mission (which are accessed as stand-alone levels from the open world area of Gotham) in which the mega Joker-bot was pursuing the Batmobile (painted in Robin’s colours, for safety). This was a shooter-style on rails section, representing the different gameplay styles that certain missions will adopt.
In another, more traditional, Lego level, we saw Batman, Robin and two other heroes making their way through the ruins of Wayne Tower (trashed by Joker’s robot). This mission had the older fixed camera and more familiar construction gameplay. It’s still necessary to use different ‘suits’ in order to pass certain obstacles (as it was in the first Lego Batman), but now these special suits add new fighting powers too. For example, the power suit from the previous game now lets Batman fire rockets.
On top of that, each of the playable heroes and villains will be able to hop into a variety of air, sea and ground vehicles to help them get around the city of Gotham. Air and sea transport wasn’t really shown off, but a total of 25 ground vehicles will be in there, from DC classics (like the Batmobile) to standard Lego staples like a fire engine and rather inventive constructions like a spherical pumpkin car for Scarecrow.
There’ll be 50 playable characters in total from all over the DC universe, including personalities like General Zod, Brainiac and Hawkman who are perhaps lesser known. As with previous Lego games, it’ll be necessary to return to certain areas and levels with freshly unlocked characters to reach certain collectibles and new zones. Traveller’s Tales has said that Kryptonite is represented by green Lego, which Green Lantern is able to interact with and build things from. Handily though, you’ll be able to switch out characters mid-level, preventing frustration if you meet an obstacle with the ‘wrong’ character.
It’ll even be possible to construct your own superhero character from bits of other Lego characters and mix and match powers for your favourite heroes. An example given was Penguin’s body with Killer Croc’s head and Superman’s powers, which is a fairly terrifying combination.
Local co-op multiplayer also returns, giving you the chance to play with a buddy (presumably only one, as Traveller’s Tales haven’t even hinted at more than two player). Characters will be followed by the same dynamic split-screen camera present in previous Lego titles, so whether players are in a story mission or ‘outside’ in the open world of Gotham they’ll be able to wander off and do their own thing, or stick together on the same screen.
By staying true to what, by now, are the traditions of the Lego titles, while at the same time expanding the external play area to an open world compatible in size with Batman: Arkham City, Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes looks like it’ll be doing enough to shake up the series without tossing out anything that’s made the Lego games so popular. Questions remain over the decision to add voice acting to a game series that thrived on body language and physical humour, but Lego Gotham is looking like a wonderful space in which to build, deconstruct and unleash superhuman powers.
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes is released on 19 June/22 June (North America/Europe).